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Takeaways from an easy Avalanche win over Ottawa

AJ Haefele Avatar
February 7, 2020

We knew when the schedule turned over to 2020 that Colorado was facing one of the league’s softest schedules of strength. In the 12 games since the new year began, the Avs have lost five games, just three in regulation, and continue putting themselves in position to challenge for the Central Division title.

After a 6-1 beatdown of the Buffalo Sabres, the Avalanche rolled into Ottawa looking to get the two points they left on the ice in this building last season when they actually cared about where the Senators were in the standings.

Colorado didn’t leave those points out there this year as they beat up the Sens in a rarely-competitive 4-1 contest.

The win, unlike Tuesday’s demolition of the sinking Sabres, was driven by a strong team effort as three different lines registered goals at even strength and the power play got in on the fun, too.

Goals from Val Nichushkin, Matt Nieto, Cale Makar, and J.T. Compher showed off why Colorado is both the league’s highest-scoring offense and one of the most balanced.

The Avalanche blueline continued it’s prolific scoring as Makar registered two assists and Ryan Graves added an assist as this group just kept rolling on.

But it wasn’t the offense early on that was so impressive.

Nichushkin’s goal gave Colorado the 1-0 lead but Colorado outshot the Senators 13-0 before Ottawa was able to register its first shot on goal of the game. The sparse Sens crowd cheered when Ottawa finally got the first shot, which came on their second power play of the period, and would cheer again just minutes later when Brady Tkachuk scored on a clean breakaway in the final minute to tie the game despite Colorado’s early dominance.

Instead of getting down on themselves, Colorado came out for the second period and re-asserted their will, getting goals from Nieto and Makar (his on the power play) and giving the Avs a 3-1 lead going into the third period.

Coming into the game, Colorado was tied with the Washington Capitals for most wins when leading after two periods with 24.

Instead of letting the Senators stage a comeback, Compher’s goal provided a necessary dagger. Philipp Grubauer shut the door on the rare scoring chances generated by the lethargic Ottawa offense and the Avs got their second win on their five-game road trip.

That trip continues to Columbus on Saturday night where the Avalanche will take on the white-hot goaltending of the Blue Jackets as they try to guarantee a winning road swing.

GAME TAKEAWAYS

  • The final minute of the first period could have been a complete disaster. Not only did Tkachuk score to tie the game, but Ottawa scored again on the next shift but the goal was disallowed due to a kicking motion. It was the right call and the most blatant kick you’ll ever see but when it comes to NHL officiating, you just never know. The Avs got just the kind of break they needed and they took advantage.
  • I don’t know of anywhere that actually tracks the stats but anecdotally it sure feels like Colorado gives up a ton of goals in the final minute of periods. I might dig a little deeper into that if I am so inclined on an off-day coming up. It would be interesting to see if that’s just perception because it’s happened in three of the last five games or reality.
  • Another quiet, steady performance for Grubauer. No soft goals against and not many major defensive breakdowns are a good combination for helping a goaltender to find his confidence and groove again.
  • The power play got just one opportunity in this game and took advantage of it. It struggled to get set up initially but once they gained the zone, the puck movement was quick and decisive. The big change was they moved their feet a bit and changed the angles of the defenders, which opened the shooting lane they wanted for Makar. The rookie defensemen cashed in with his 12th goal of the season and regained the rookie scoring lead with his 40 points.
  • Colorado has won two games against bottom-tier teams and Nathan MacKinnon has just two assists in those games. It’s been really interesting how human he and that line look and Colorado’s offense has scored three, six, and four goals in their last three games.
  • To that point, 11 of Colorado’s 12 regular forwards have points since the All-Star break ended. Only Matt Calvert hasn’t snagged one as his quest for 30 continues.
  • One of the things about Colorado’s early-season schedule was they just didn’t play very many of the bad teams in the league. Now that they’re starting to see those teams a little more often, it’s really driven home just how talented this Avalanche roster truly is. They aren’t always playing lights out but they’re able to out-talent teams at times. Their last four games against bottom teams (San Jose, Detroit, Buffalo, Ottawa), Colorado has outscored them 20-5. Don’t let anybody lie to you and say this isn’t a serious team.

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